RALEIGH — More than 20 speakers voiced their opposition Monday to several Republican-sponsored bills under consideration at the legislature, including efforts to revoke Raleighs lease of the Dorothea Dix campus and a measure reshaping school board elections.
The Wake County legislative delegations meeting attracted less than half the crowd of a hearing two weeks ago. Mondays event was intended for those who didnt get time to speak on March 25.
Many of the speakers Monday mentioned several bills they oppose, and some offered thoughts on the current legislature as a whole. Phil Poe of Raleigh pointed to the General Assemblys 23 percent approval rating in a recent poll.
I think these numbers are sad and discouraging, Poe said. It seems too many of our legislators are totally indifferent to these polling numbers, when in fact theyre a measurement of your performance. ... You can do better you must do better.
Many of those legislators werent there to hear the criticism. Nearly half of Wakes 16-member delegation Democrats and Republicans was absent for part or all of the meeting. The missing lawmakers included Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh and Republican Reps. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh and Paul Stam of Apex. Avila co-sponsored the bill to revoke Raleighs lease on the Dorothea Dix property.
Heres a sampling of the hot topics from Mondays hearing:
Revoking the lease for the Dorothea Dix park: Backers of the park plan faced off with members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMIs Wake County chapter supports the bill that would renegotiate Raleighs park lease at fair market value and dedicate the money to mental health, while keeping land for state Department of Health and Human Services offices.
NAMI board member Bill Stanley said the propertys value should always go to mental health. There is a history of North Carolina trust funds being raided to fund other government programs, Stanley said. Rather than a trust fund, I would like to see something concrete like a small hospital or clinic.
Park supporters argued that the bill isnt about fixing mental health. We know thats not the case, said Will Hooker, a Raleigh landscape architect and N.C. State University professor. The real reason for this is that developers want to build condominiums on the Dix property.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the state must uphold the lease signed in December. I just came to say one thing, and that is honor your commitments, McFarlane said. If the citizens cannot trust the leaders of North Carolina to keep their word, its a sad day for the state, and your honor is on the line.
The Dix bill has been approved by the Senate and will go before the House judiciary committee in the coming weeks.
School board elections and construction authority: Other speakers were concerned about bills that would put county commissioners in charge of school construction and reshape Wake County school board elections. Both bills have been awaiting hearings from Senate committees for nearly a month.
Retired Greensboro schools superintendent John Eberhart said the elections bill gerrymanders districts with little concern for natural boundaries. ... Some may go as long as six years without voting on school board representation.
Vann Langston added that the bills are solving a problem that citizens have not said is a problem.
Curbing housing rules: Several speakers blasted a bill that would limit local governments ability to set design standards for residential housing, saying the measure interferes with local governance.
But Spears Mullen, a Raleigh builder, said he supports the measure. I dont feel its the business of cities to control what people do on private property, Mullen said.
Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter